Explaining the ABCD Tournament Format

ABCD is a tournament format for teams of four golfers, and it requires the use of handicaps. That's because the tournament begins with organizers sorting golfers into A-, B-, C- and D-level players (A's being the lowest handicappers, D's being the highest). Each team consists of one player from each level. This is a very common way of assembling teams for charity tournaments, company events, association playdays and the like. But if the tournament is named an ABCD Tournament, it might progress in one of the following ways.

Low Balls, Gross and Net

One option for an ABCD Tournament is to combine the gross scores of the A and B golfers with the net scores of the C and D golfers. (Gross means actual number of strokes played; net means strokes played minus any handicap strokes.) If Golfers A and B score a gross 4 and 5, respectively, and C and D score a net 5 and 5, then the team score is 19.

More commonly, teams will use the low ball of the A/B gross scores, comined with the low ball of the C/D net scores. So if A scores 5 and B scores 4, while C nets a 3 and D a 5, the team scores is 7 (B's 4 combined with C's 3).

One + Three

In this option, on each hole the score of one designated team member is combined with the scramble score of the other three golfers to create the team score. This option guarantees every golfer contributes his or her score on a minimum of four holes, but it also puts pressure on the golfer going solo.

Who is the designated single on each hole? Commonly, your A player goes it alone on the five hardest handicap holes, the B players gets the next four-toughest handicap holes, the C player the next four after that, and your D player gets the five easiest handicap holes.

So on, for example, the seventh-hardest handicap hole (according to the handicap line on the scorecard), Golfer B's score must be used. Golfers A, C and D play that hole as a scramble. Their scramble score combines with B's score for the team score. On the 16th-rated handicap hole (the third-easiest, in other words), Golfer D's score must be used, and Golfers A, B and C play the hole as a scramble.

Many Other Possibilities

An ABCD Tournament (also spelled A-B-C-D format) allows for many, many possibilities for how the scoring works. The A, B, C, D part of the name only ensures that teams are comprised of four golfers of different skill levels, designated as the team's A-player, B-player and so on. Pretty much any scoring format for four-golfer teams will work for an ABCD Tournament. The ones that work best, however, are the ones that ensure that the C and D players get to contribute to the team score.

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